Via a post on Ron Hogan’s Twitter feed earlier this week, I made my way down to the sidewalk out in front of the Union Square Barnes & Noble after work one night. A small crowd had gathered, and a
“Ah,” I thought, “this is about Mischief & Mayhem.” (In retrospect, I’m not sure how I didn’t get this from the original post, which makes it pretty clear.) IÂ stepped out not long afterwards — I already knew the basics of their operation, and (here’s where I make a very awkward face) didn’t realize that a proper reading would follow the declaration of said manifesto.
With all that in mind, I’m not entirely sure what I make of M&M’s business model, or that of OR Books, with which they’re affiliated.
Mischief + Mayhem’s titles will be produced only in electronic or print-on-demand editions, and will be available, initially at least, exclusively for purchase online from the publisher. This arrangement avoids the enormous waste of the current publishing system, which ships books to stores, fails to promote them, and then sees many of them returned, unsold, to the publisher.
That said, I have been meaning to order several of their titles — namely the Gordon Lish collection, Eileen Myles’s Inferno, and now Lisa Dierbeck’s The Autobiography of Jenny X. But I’m also a fairly staunch buy-it-locally-if-you-can guy, which leaves me unsure of the ethics. Either way, I’m supporting an indie business, whether publisher or store — but the fact that OR’s model is, essentially, storeless worries me in its implications.
I also recognize that this isn’t the case for everything OR does — I could (and probably should, before long) order some of their books via my local bookstore. And they also seem to recognize this, as they just announced a partnership with St. Mark’s Bookshop.
(And there’s an entirely different discussion that could also be had, about how I don’t necessarily have this same internal ethical debate when dealing with independent music & indie record stores. On the other hand, though, my understanding of the underlying ordering structure of publishing vs. that of the music industry means that this isn’t as much of an issue. If I’ve gotten any of this horribly wrong, feel free to correct me…)